Apr 20, 2010

Philosophical Phun - Prophecy :o)

Prophecy involves disclosing some important information that could not have been known to the prophet in any ordinary way. Prophecy is interesting from a philosophical point of view because it introduces interesting questions about divine knowledge, time, and human freedom.

In the monotheist religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), a prophet is a person who makes God's will particularly clear, whether or not doing so involves making any predictions about the future. When philosophers discuss prophecy, they are typically interested in prophecies concerning the contingent future. Let's say that a future event is contingent if and only if it is both possible that it happen and possible that it not happen. In other words, future contingent events are not determined to occur and not determined not to occur; they are “up in the air”, so to speak. Imagine that based upon the revelation of an infallible God, a person prophecies that some future contingent event will occur. Since God cannot be wrong, does it follow that the future contingent event must occur? And if it must occur, how can it be a free act?

Under this premise, our options are:
  • There are no future contingent events. God's providential control over the world is so thorough and detailed that nothing is left to chance, not even free choices as human beings.
  • Deny that God has any knowledge of the contingent future [open future]
  • God exists outside of time itself [ever-present eternity]
  • God has middle knowledge: through natural knowledge [nobody can control], God knows what is necessary and what is possible. Through middle knowledge, God knows what every possible person would do freely in every possible situation. So God decides which kind of world to create, including those situations in which free human persons should be placed, knowing how they would respond, and this results in God's free knowledge (contingent truths which are up to God, which includes foreknowledge of the actual future, including all human actions).

As philosophical thought processes are applied to religion, and we eliminate the absolutes (no choice or God controls all), then human free choice becomes much trickier to explain. All I know is that I absolutely believe in free choice and the associated consequences.


  1. And it is the idea of an 'infallible God' that got me to thinking... why would he create such a flawed world ON PURPOSE? To what end does an omnipetent being allows for such unnecessary pain and suffering in all spheres of life? And the incredible imbalances between different elements of life, the gap between the have and the have nots in humanity being among them?

    One of the things that I don't understand and fail to reconcile in my mind, is that man would seem to occur outside of the environment of the world. A case could be made for the existence of man being the 'unnatural' part of the world and maybe even existence itself.

    Sorta throwing ideas out and seeing what sticks. But I do think that fate and destiny is determined by the individual. Each act leads to other acts where the person's fate can change.

    I do believe in destiny and prophecy in a limited range. I do think that willpower becomes those things I have mentioned, when one focuses solely on achieving those goals and make as many choices as they can based on their consequence and relationship to their goal.

    Does the end justify the means? I don't know. But the idea of a 'kind and loving God' doesn't make any sense, either! Maybe I could create another philosphical school of thought and call it Markism and see who follows me along!!

  2. There is, of course, a possibility you did not discuss, Ken. All of your above mentioned options presuppose the existence of a god. As well, asserting that prophecy actually exists - that is the ability to successfully predict future events - assumes facts not in evidence. Discussing how prophecy reflects upon the nature of God is kind of putting the cart before the horse without actual evidence of successful prophetic revalation.

  3. Either God doesn't care or he's a dick. Those are the choices if you're a believer.

  4. oooooh all too much for me! Laine xxx

  5. I think it's a matter of interpretation and understanding. I tend to think of the idea of God as a supreme intelligence with dependable and invariable laws, sort of in a scientific sense. I flatly don't accept the idea that God is whimsical in His dealings with humans and other creatures. God does not hate fags. There is no hate involved in any way, any more than there is in Geology or Mathematics. "Geology hates yellow rocks."

    Free will gives us the choice to make mistakes, and we suffer. But it also enables us to learn. A good philosopher will attempt to understand the supreme laws as they apply to individual human life and society. One who can understand and appreciate those laws can prophesy correctly.

    As for contingencies, since we must remove time from the equation, if a thing is going to happen then it has already happened, and if it has not already happened then it won't happen no matter what it's likelihood is.

    Issac Singer said "We have to believe in free will. We have no choice."

    Shakespeare said "Impossible be strange attempts to those who weigh their pains in sense and do suppose what hath been cannot be.

    Thank you for an exceelent entry.



Tell Me What You Think, Don't Make me go Rogue on you :o)